Success comes from basic studies

How do you measure schools? Which ones produce students who excel? Which ones aren’t making the grade?

Those are tough questions, not only for school administrators, but also parents.

In recent years, our state has had a history of creating new tests to measure student achievement, revising those tests, then creating new tests again (when we don’t like low student academic achievement scores).

Because of the constant changes our state has made when it comes to standardized testing, a statewide system was implemented to grade the schools themselves. The letter grade assigned to each school annually is based on three criteria: Student academic proficiency, academic growth, and career and college readiness.

Looking at those grades, the cold hard fact is that many of our state’s public schools aren’t up to par. According to the Achievement Index released in August by the state Board of Education — based on 2012-13 student academic achievement — nearly half of all public schools in the state received a “D,” or worse.

Looking at schools in Okanogan and Ferry counties, as well as Bridgeport, Grand Coulee and Mansfield, many of our public schools are in pretty tough shape when it comes to student academic performance. Only one local school is considered “exemplary” and six are considered “very good.”

Breaking the letter grades down, we have 50 public schools in our circulation area — 19 were not graded. Of those receiving letter grades, one received an “A,” six received a “B,” four received a “C,” eight received a “D” and 11 received an “F.”

According to the Achievement Index, the best school in North-Central Washington is Liberty Bell High School, our lone “A.” Our “very good,” or “B” schools are Bridgeport High School, Methow Valley Elementary, Okanogan High School, Omak High School, Pateros Elementary School and Pateros High School.

Tonasket High School is considered a “good” school under the grading system, even though it only received a “C.”

We must be doing something right here at the high school level. Looking at our readership area, we have 11 high schools and five of them received a “B” or better.

Conversely, only two schools at the elementary or middle school levels received a “B.” That leaves us with a lot of “fair,” “underperforming” and “lowest 5 percent” elementary and middle schools.

Why are our elementary and middle school students performing at such low academic levels here? Why the dichotomy? What happens between middle and high school to turn academic achievement around? Those are tough questions our area school districts will have to answer in the coming year.

When it comes to academic achievement, one thing is certain: The more the focus is on reading, writing and arithmetic, the more students will be successful in the competitive world around them.

Roger Harnack is the editor and publisher of The Chronicle. He can be reached at 509-826-1110 or via email at


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment